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Microarrays and comparative genomics

In the Literature.

GNN's feature story Snapshots of Genomic Evolution focuses on using microarrays to study differences in gene content between strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The report is one of several recent studies that have adopted this technique for comparative genomics. Microarrays can scan entire genomes and create genetic profiles of bacteria that allow epidemiologists to track the spread of a specific strain. The technology is also being used to pinpoint genetic differences between related strains of bacteria that cause variations in virulence and pathology. In recent issues of Infection and Immunity, The Journal of Clinical Investigation and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers use DNA microarrays to study strain specific features of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Helicobacter pylori. Two publications deal specifically with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The abstracts for these reports appear below.

Bijal P. Trivedi


Mosaic genes and mosaic chromosomes: intra- and interspecies genomic variation of Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Streptococcus pneumoniae remains a major causative agent of serious human diseases. The worldwide increase of antibiotic resistant strains revealed the importance of horizontal gene transfer in this pathogen, a scenario that results in the modulation of the species-specific gene pool. We investigated genomic variation in 20 S. pneumoniae isolates representing major antibiotic-resistant clones and 10 different capsular serotypes. Variation was scored as decreased hybridization signals visualized on a high-density oligonucleotide array representing 1,968 genes of the type 4 reference strain KNR.7/87. Up to 10% of the genes appeared altered between individual isolates and the reference strain; variability within clones was below 2.1%. Ten gene clusters covering 160 kb account for half of the variable genes. Most of them are associated with transposases and are assumed to be part of a flexible gene pool within the bacterial population; other variable loci include mosaic genes encoding antibiotic resistance determinants and gene clusters related to bacteriocin production. Genomic comparison between S. pneumoniae and commensal Streptococcus mitis and Streptococcus oralis strains indicates distinct antigenic profiles and suggests a smooth transition between these species, supporting the validity of the microarray system as an epidemiological and diagnostic tool.

Infect Immun 2001 Apr;69(4):2477-86

Helicobacter pylori strain-specific differences in genetic content, identified by microarray, influence host inflammatory responses.

Helicobacter pylori enhances the risk for ulcer disease and gastric cancer, yet only a minority of H. pylori-colonized individuals develop disease. We examined the ability of two H. pylori isolates to induce differential host responses in vivo or in vitro, and then used an H. pylori whole genome microarray to identify bacterial determinants related to pathogenesis. Gastric ulcer strain B128 induced more severe gastritis, proliferation, and apoptosis in gerbil mucosa than did duodenal ulcer strain G1.1, and gastric ulceration and atrophy occurred only in B128+ gerbils. In vitro, gerbil-passaged B128 derivatives significantly increased IL-8 secretion and apoptosis compared with G1.1 strains. DNA hybridization to the microarray identified several strain-specific differences in gene composition including a large deletion of the cag pathogenicity island in strain G1.1. Partial and complete disruption of the cag island in strain B128 attenuated induction of IL-8 in vitro and significantly decreased gastric inflammation in vivo. These results indicate that the ability of H. pylori to regulate epithelial cell responses related to inflammation depends on the presence of an intact cag pathogenicity island. Use of an H pylori whole genome microarray is an effective method to identify differences in gene content between H. pylori strains that induce distinct pathological outcomes in a rodent model of H. pylori infection.

J Clin Invest 2001 Mar;107(5):611-20

A whole-genome microarray reveals genetic diversity among Helicobacter pylori strains.

Helicobacter pylori colonizes the stomach of half of the world's population, causing a wide spectrum of disease ranging from asymptomatic gastritis to ulcers to gastric cancer. Although the basis for these diverse clinical outcomes is not understood, more severe disease is associated with strains harboring a pathogenicity island. To characterize the genetic diversity of more and less virulent strains, we examined the genomic content of 15 H. pylori clinical isolates by using a whole genome H. pylori DNA microarray. We found that a full 22% of H. pylori genes are dispensable in one or more strains, thus defining a minimal functional core of 1281 H. pylori genes. While the core genes encode most metabolic and cellular processes, the strain-specific genes include genes unique to H. pylori, restriction modification genes, transposases, and genes encoding cell surface proteins, which may aid the bacteria under specific circumstances during their long-term infection of genetically diverse hosts. We observed distinct patterns of the strain-specific gene distribution along the chromosome, which may result from different mechanisms of gene acquisition and loss. Among the strain-specific genes, we have found a class of candidate virulence genes identified by their coinheritance with the pathogenicity island.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2000 Dec 19;97(26):14668-73

Comparison of Mycobacterium tuberculosis genomes reveals frequent deletions in a 20 kb variable region in clinical isolates.

The Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex is associated with a remarkably low level of structural gene polymorphism. As part of a search for alternative forms of genetic variation that may act as a source of biological diversity in M. tuberculosis, we have identified a region of the genome that is highly variable amongst a panel of unrelated clinical isolates. Fifteen of 24 isolates examined contained one or more copies of the M. tuberculosis-specific IS6110 insertion element within this 20 kb variable region. In nine of the isolates, including the laboratory-passaged strain H37Rv, genomic deletions were identified, resulting in loss of between two and 13 genes. In each case, deletions were associated with the presence of a copy of the IS6110 element. Absence of flanking tri- or tetra-nucleotide repeats identified homologous recombination between adjacent IS6110 elements as the most likely mechanism of the deletion events. IS6110 insertion into hot-spots within the genome of M. tuberculosis provides a mechanism for generation of genetic diversity involving a high frequency of insertions and deletions. Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Yeast 2000 Dec;17(4):272-82

Comparative genomics of the mycobacteria.

The genus mycobacteria includes two important human pathogens Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium lepra. The former is reputed to have the highest annual global mortality of all pathogens. Their slow growth, virulence for humans and particular physiology makes these organisms extremely difficult to work with. However the rapid development of mycobacterial genomics following the completion of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome sequence provides the basis for a powerful new approach for the understanding of these organisms. Five further genome sequencing projects of closely related mycobacterial species with differing host range, virulence for humans and physiology are underway. A comparative genomic analysis of these species has the potential to define the genetic basis of these phenotypes which will be invaluable for the development of urgently needed new vaccines and drugs. This minireview summarises the different techniques that have been employed to compare these genomes and gives an overview of the wealth of data that has already been generated by mycobacterial comparative genomics.

Int J Med Microbiol 2000 May;290(2):143-52

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